For years, Thailand has been a popular country for tourism. Many foreigners went to Thailand to enjoy its culture, natural beauty and warm weather. But reports about martial law and attacks on foreigners have harmed its image as an inviting tourist destination.
This year, the Thai travel industry is seeking to appeal to more upscale visitors and tour groups from China’s mainland. The aim is to increase spending at hotels, restaurants and other businesses across the country.
About one in 10 Thais holds a job related to tourism. The tourism industry suffered last year because of political tensions. Protests in the capital, Bangkok, ended with Thailand’s armed forces taking control of the government.
Some foreigners are concerned about going to Thailand. The military continues to rule the country. Foreign media have published reports about tourists being victims of serious crimes on resort islands. Some Thai police were said to have demanded money from foreigners in Bangkok. And, reports say taxi drivers made foreigners pay too much for rides around the city.
Sukanya Janchoo is head of marketing and public relations for the Thai Hotels Association. She is also general manager of the Dusit Thani, a five-star hotel in Bangkok. She is hopeful about the tourism industry. She says the industry has always been able to recover quickly from natural disasters, political troubles or economic problems.
Thailand is known as the "Land of Smiles." And the country hopes to put a happy face on the tourism industry this year. Thailand hopes to welcome 28 million visitors in 2015. That is the same number as its goal last year. In 2014, the number of actual visitors was 26-million.
Fifteen years ago, Thailand struggled to have more than 10 million visitors in a single year. The total rose above 15 million for the first time in 2010. Two years later, the country had over 20 million visitors.
Varithorn Sirisattayawong is with the Kasikorn Research Center. She says Thailand will try to attract, in her words, “more quality tourists” in 2015. She says cities like Phuket and Chiang Mai have modern hotels and other services for those willing to spend more money.
The largest number of visitors comes from China. The Chinese are considered the best overall daily spenders while in Thailand.
Thailand expects more than 90,000 Chinese visitors during the Lunar New Year period. Many of them are receiving etiquette guides. The guides explain how to act in museums and religious centers. They also urge visitors to obey traffic rules and warn against using public property as toilets.
Thailand is also popular with visitors from Malaysia, Japan, Russia and South Korea. But there has been a decrease in Russian tourists since the loss in value of the Russian ruble. Experts say a weakening Euro against Thailand’s baht is to blame for a decrease in visitors from European countries.
The Association of Thai Travel Agents is hoping to increase the number of visitors from Indonesia and China to compensate for the loss of European visitors.
The group reports the total number of international tourists in January was up more than 18 percent compared to January of 2014.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok reported this story. Jonathan Evans wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
compensate – v., to provide something good as a balance for something bad or undesirable
etiquette – n., the rules indicating the proper and polite way to behave
martial law – n., military rule
tourism – n., the activity of traveling somewhere for fun or pleasure
upscale – adj., relating to or appealing to people who have a lot of money
Do you have plans to visit Thailand? What are some activities you would like to do in the country? Write to us in the comments section.